Grand Opening

sriracha-jpg

Underneath Grand Opening there is a hand written sign. Pho & Chinese Food & Free Drinks.

The paint they chose was teal and pink. The lights were dim, the orchids fake, the Grand Opening balloons popped and dangling from the awning.

But the lights were still on and the not too pretty waitress was sitting on the booth, all by herself, alone. Somehow the way she sat made me think of my grandma, and how people can spend their lives inside their houses, with the TV on, alone.

Ten thirty, probably too late, but the lights are on, Zilla said, and she is sitting there and we are hungry. So we drive past three times, debating it, and each time we drive a little faster, and the raindrops become streaks of yellow light, hitting our windshield, keeping us from our goal.

Now we really want to eat there but we cannot find a place to park.

And then we finally do and we get out and walk shoulders-up, eyes-on-toes, hands-in-pockets against the cold, the rain, quickly up to glow coming from under the Grand Opening sign.

Zilla hesitates and then he takes his hand out of his pocket and pushes the cold handle on the glass door. No little bells ring. The waitress looks up with not much interest and chews at us for a small moment and then waves us away with her chopsticks.

Closed.

Nothing happens. No one moves.

I feel suddenly irrationally sad. And mad. And I want to hug this woman tight. We will eat with you!

The rain drops and the white rude overhead lights make my skin shine. The red vinyl booths, the Sriracha sauce, the overripe plum of her lips almost make me cry.

Outside the window, our car, a color the dealer said was tango red, looks orange.  We got back in and drove home and ended up not eating at all.

I wouldn’t have gone back. But Zilla wanted to give them a chance. It doesn’t have to be fancy, he said, to be good.

This time there was an older man with a few grew strands of a long beard and a dingy half apron waiting, like he always had been, on the same red booth. His hands were still.

The fresh rolls weren’t fresh. The sprouts were starting to go brown and they were loosely folded, like they were made by a child.

The sweet chili sauce came from a jar. The feel of it, oddly thick, lacking vinegar, lacking love, took over my thoughts.

I began to taste what I felt. Why do you think I want to eat this? Do you want to eat this? You must not respect me! You must not take yourself seriously! What a waste! You are completely foolish! Opening a restaurant is not easy! Nothing is easy!

Over a not-so-fresh fresh roll, I get stupid, angry and mad.

I want them to suffer. To go out of business. But just sitting there, they don’t even seem to care.

We left the restaurant and we left town-this was when we traveled a lot, because Zilla’s dad was sick- and when we came back the grand opening was over and the place was closed.  No lights, nobody.

I imagined that they left like an office worker does in the movies, gathering a few items into a brown box that goes who knows where, making their little space into an empty space again.

The only things they left (was there ever anything else?) were the cash register, the booths, the chopsticks in their paper covers on the table, their aprons, as if they were coming back for them, draped over the counter, the Sriracha on the tables, their fake orchids, and their Grand Opening sign.

This is an old piece I never got to posting. This space—on Capitol Hill in Seattle—has been five restaurants since.

Again

Baby in the Park
I am two days late and the owner of two urine covered sticks, with two very faint lines. If I am still pregnant tomorrow those lines should be getting stronger. Being pregnant, I now understand, does not mean always that you are going to have a baby.

As a woman who is in her 30’s whose has already had a miscarriage, I am at a higher risk for having another. I am happy. I am pregnant again. But I am scared. So scared of loss that I almost want to stop trying.

This is not a good way to live. It is not a good way to parent. Although I cannot yet speak from experience, I am coming to believe that faith in the face of fear may be a mother’s truest job.

The first time I shared the news of my pregnancy because I was so happy I could not contain it. I did not believe miscarriage could happen to me. I felt settled. I felt calm. I was going to have a child. That was all in my head.

After the loss, I told myself that the next time I was late I would not test. I would wait, and wait, until the risks of miscarriage were lower.
The idea was to protect myself. Not to stress. My doctor concurred. You are relatively young. May women have miscarriages they never know about. There is nothing to worry about until three losses have occurred.

But.

But. What if something is wrong? What if something needs to be done? We’ve been trying for over a year. What if I’ve already had a handful of unknown miscarriages before… So I tested. And then again. Two tests. Two faint pink lines. If the embryo was attaching, the line should have gotten stronger.
I decided to call my doctor.
Whether or not I’m pregnant, I thought, I will think and wonder and worry that something is wrong.

Little Girl in the park
The same will be true with my child, whenever and however, he or she arrives. At 6 weeks and 12 weeks, at 20 and 37 and 42; at 4 months, 4 years, 14, and 40—it is out of my control.

I will never know for sure if they are safe. I can ask about their lives, their world, their work, their loves and hates. Maybe they will be happy. Maybe not. Maybe they will tell me. Maybe they won’t.
There is little I can do but love them, either way.

I can hurt about that forever.
Or I can let it go and keep trying.
Pain is married to the possibility of happiness.
I am pregnant today.

And today I’m not.

Lemon Meringue Pie Love

Wayne-Thiebaud

A few weeks ago my parents celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. If you count the 5 years they knew each other before they got married, that’s a pretty awesome amount of love. It’s also a little scary. Zilla and I are only on year 5.

I happened to call my grandma the day of. “It’s you parent’s anniversary isn’t it?”

“It is,” I said. At her age, it really was good of her to remember.

“I didn’t call or send a card,” she said. “But I suppose they will forgive me. It was a wonderful wedding. I remember it. I was there.”

And for the first time I realized something that has been obvious but, I’ve just never thought of before: My grandfather was there too. They were in the middle of, or just through a divorce.

“I never liked your meatloaf, anyway,” was apparently what he said as he walked out the door.

That was thirty years ago. I’ve only met the man once, when I was about four. I remember running through an old abandoned grave yard in North Florida with his new younger-than-me son, by his new younger-than-my-mom wife. My “uncle” and I were hunting for tiny, tiny frogs. For years afterward, if my mom talked about that trip, it was to say that the new-wife didn’t cook.

Wayne Thiebaud

When Zilla and I got married, one of our friends gave us a book called The 5 Languages of Love. It is thin and purple and covered in cursive writing. I think there is a couple, holding hands, walking into the sunset. I hate this kind of book. It has sold 5 million copies.

And yet here it is, still, reminding me of important lessons. People show their love in different ways. Some people need to give and get gifts. Some people need space. Some people need to hold hands. The book didn’t say this, I do: some people need to cook.

When I think of my mom, and I think of love, I think of lemon pie (or perhaps her version of my grandmother’s spaghetti, but that’s another post.)

Last week I made a lemon pie for Zilla. I made a graham cracker crust, like my mom always did. I crushed the graham crackers and mixed them with melted butter and white granulated sugar until it was the consistency of wet sand and thought of my mom.

Making lemon meringue pie with my mom is one of my earliest memories. So early, that all of my lemon meringue pie memories involve standing on chairs. I pulled out the breakfast table chair to get to the cookbook above the fridge; I dragged the chair over to the stove to stand on it; I stood on the chair, barefoot, to stir the lemon custard.

Most of the pie making, for me, was about waiting for the custard to get thick. “Is it thick now, Mom?” “Mom, how about now?” “Is this a simmer?” “What about now?” “Mom! Is this thick?”

“Not yet, honey.” “Keep stirring.”

I wore a ruffled half-apron, which was meant to go around the waist, tied halter-top style over what would one day become boobs. I dripped blobs of custard onto the floor when I held up my wooden spoon.

Wayne Thiebaud Cakes

My mom and I used the Betty Crocker—or maybe it was the Better Homes and GardensCookbook, covered in what I would now call Italian tablecloth plain, that, I think, my mom got when she and my dad were married. The recipe for lemon meringue pie was discolored and covered in splotches and glued to and ripped off from its neighbors. I liked this. I could always find it without having to use the index.

My mom always made her lemon meringue pie tarter than the recipe called for—more lemon juice, almost double, and more lemon zest. I don’t remember my mom’s face, or her expression, while we were cooking. I remember her hands, grating zest, cracking eggs.

I was so busy watching them, trying to learn.

This makes me a little sad. People’s hands always do. The shape of their fingers and the beds of their nails are almost as personal as their smile.

When the mixture was finally thick enough, she slowly poured in the yolks in a ribbon. All at once, the custard turned yellow, like the late afternoon sunlight, and the kitchen smelled like lemon.

I started off saying we made lemon meringue pie, but at the standing-on-chairs-age, the truth is probably more like mom made lemon meringue pie despite me. She made them for the people she loved. For my dad, and for his best friend, for whom lemon meringue pie was the only exception to a no-sweets rule.  She made them for my birthday. She made them when my grandparents—my father’s parents—came to visit. I wonder now, if she was ever making them for herself?

Or if I’ve ever made a pie just for me.

I know my mom’s answer to that, or I think I do. What she loved was not so much lemon meringue, but chocolate cream pie, the kind my grandma used to make for my mom’s birthday, when she was little, and occasionally, still does.

I remember a children’s book my mom used to read me called Angel Food Cake for Angela. Angel food cake was not something my mom made, but it was something she loved. In the book, Angela’s mom wrote secret love notes for her daughter in the flour she used to make the cake. My mom used to put real love notes for my sister and me in our lunch boxes. I always had the idea that this was because my grandma wrote love notes in the flour she used for my mom’s chocolate cream pie crust as well.

Wayne Thiebaud Cakes

Meringue comes after the custard. My mother’s meringue is the best I’ve ever had.  One day, when I was about seven, I turned on the electric egg beater, which weighed a ton and used to belong to my great grandmother, who was from Iowa via Ireland, and let a lock of my then much blonder hair fall in the beater. I got the whole two foot long lank zipped up to my scalp in a second. It looked like my hair was in a giant curler, and it scared me, and it hurt.

My mom ran over and pulled the cord out (which was ancient and ungrounded) and kissed me and released the beaters form the heavy handle motor. She sat me down on the chair properly and unwound my hair. Forever more, all cooking adventures required rubber bands. Which didn’t really matter, because I didn’t usually make the meringue. And mom always did after that. She had, and I suppose still does, a way with soft peaks and the texture of beaten egg whites. She can stretch out the meringue on the top of the whole pie and then pull the beaters up to let the meringue flip over so the whole surface is covered in soft little peaks, like the tops of a twenty soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones.

And when she took the pie out of the oven it was golden brown all over. My sister was so tempted she once stuck her finger right in the top.

Wayne Thiebaud

I made Zilla a lemon meringue pie right after we met. He requested it for his birthday. I was pleased. I thought it was a choice that boded well and bespoke good taste. And, he’d never even had one like my mom made it, with extra lemon and with graham cracker crust!

So I made my first lemon meringue pie on my own. I was cooking professionally at the time—pastries no less—so this was not technically hard, but it was strange, strange to realized that this recipe was something I always made with my mom, and that even then, it had been a long time since we’d made one together.  What was essentially my first recipe, even thought I knew it by heart, now seemed strange. No one made cornstarch custard pies anymore, or graham cracker crusts, or meringue topping. The recipe was dated, like wearing bell bottoms, or painting your kitchen orange.

Zilla ate half the pie. He said it was delicious. In the interest of health, he took the rest to work.

So I made this pie for this man I was newly dating and then—oh, the innocence–he came over a day or two later and announced that another woman—who I now call that bitch — had made—of all things!–a lemon meringue pie for him too.

He was elated.

Can you believe the luck, his face said. Two pies for me!

I blinked. I was not elated. This did not feel like luck. To me, this recipe, any pie, is an intimacy, a testament of love. Was he not as free he said he was? “Why,” I demanded, “is some woman making you a pie?”

“Because it’s my birthday?” he asked, though his face had changed. He didn’t know what, but he knew something was wrong.

“You don’t make a pie for someone else’s boyfriend, period.” I said, “and especially, you don’t bring it to work.”

He looked around. He looked trapped. “Yours was better.”

I glared.

“Much better.”

I kept glaring.

“And it was ugly. Her meringue was all messed up.”

Thanks, mom. I thought. And what is that fury? It was the first time I had ever felt jealous. I realized it must be true love.

I nodded. The girl moved out of town. We moved in together and got married.

Last week, six years later, I made him a second pie.

Paintings by the wonder Wayne Tiebaund. I think he likes pie too.


Underneath

Girl wearing a veil--from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis

Last night, at dinner, I told a friend I wanted to visit Morocco. “Istanbul,” she said, “that is where you should go.”

“And go to a hammam,” she said, “Where you will get well and truly washed. You are lying on this marble slab sliding around because of the soap in this ancient steaming bath full of nearly naked women, and the woman who is washing you is naked too, and her boobs,” my friend stopped to show me with her hands, “are huge, HUGE, and inches from your face. And when she wants you to turn over she starts slapping you on the ass. “Lady,” she says, “Lady,” because that is all the English she speaks, and you are thinking: What does she want? What am I doing here? When she finally gives up and practically picks you off the marble and turns you over -plunging your head into her breasts- herself.”

My friend was so involved in her story that there wasn’t a moment to tell her that I’d experienced the same thing myself.  For a long time, after we got back from Istanbul, I told almost the same story. The same slippery marble slab, the same HUGE boobs. Everyone always laughed.  My version involved the phrase “human car wash” and some moralization about how we were all the same underneath.

Then there was the Arab Spring, and more recently the Istanbul Protests, and I became more sensitive to encroachments into democracy and religious conservatism into secular life. I started to worry that anything I might say about Islam or women might seem disrespectful, or unkind—even though that is not how I felt—and so I decided to stop telling my hammam story, to shut up.

Woman in red Headscarf, Taskim Square, Istanbul

When it comes to politics I have often taken the position that I don’t know enough to have a say. Regardless of the subject, this is always my stance. For years I thought I was respectful. Now I think just think I was afraid.

In the very first essay I ever published, I took a stance that many people didn’t like. I said that the Blue Angels Air Show at Seafair made me uncomfortable. The fighter jets were awesome but they were military machines and it scared me that we turned them into entertainment, especially when we were—and still are, at war.

The piece, which ran in the Stranger, five years ago this week, got a huge response. Many, many people commented, and thanked me, and agreed. Many others insulted me, my writing (which was sometimes justified), my ideas and myself. They called me names, including ignorant, unpatriotic, ungrateful and misinformed. That is not how I thought of myself, or felt. I wanted to hide.

Before publishing Still At War, I thought having a voice and claiming an opinion would make me feel strong. It didn’t. As the comments came in, I felt exposed and weak. I didn’t understand that people can like you and–sometimes–hate your position. That you can simply disagree. So I decided to shut up.

Another thing I didn’t understand is that silence is the loudest, most dangerous, political comment of them all. So I try and publish again for years. And when I did, I tried to distance myself from the piece, and instead of Lauren, I used “Beth,” which is my nick-name, instead.

There is a simple practice of small honesties, and I think for me, now, this is where politics begins. Not grand statements about policy and practice, but the humble rumble observations of our lives.

Here is something true: When we visited Istanbul I often wore a headscarf.  I thought the headscarves—and the women wearing them—looked beautiful. I wanted to know what they felt like.  I chose a blue silk scarf at the Bazaar and mimicked the wrapping that I’d seen. At the Blue Mosque the guards directed us to the believers’ entrance, away from the tourists who were struggling to cover their shoulders and knees. I found this thrilling.

When I think about it now, I do not know if the Turkish women who covered their head wanted to or not. I am sure there is no one answer.  Some wore black headscarves and lace headscarves and headscarves of colorful silk and pastel blue and printed cotton. Some wore headscarves with long robes, others with designer jeans.

It wasn’t until the end of our trip that I learned enough history to realize how little I understood. The Republic of Turkey was not a Muslim a state, but a secular one, ever since the 1920’s when The Ottoman Empire fell. Men were discouraged from wearing the fez and women the headscarf since Ataturk’s secular reforms all the way back in the 30’s.

And now, we face a surge of conservatism, military force, and an infringement on secular life. I happened to be reading Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis, about the rise of religious extremism in then-secular Iran when I heard about the Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul. Satrapi wrote about being forced to wear a headscarf as a girl. I remembered standing in Taskim Square and Istiklar Avenue where the protests were taking place. I felt strangely implicated, in my own small personal way, because I had covered my head by choice. Was I lending support to the oppression they protested against?

Here is where I would stay quiet, but think I should say what I think.

The story I have absorbed as a Western woman is that a veil is oppressive, both for society and for the women who wear it. I’m not comfortable with this idea, not always, not as a rule. Maybe I don’t know enough. Maybe oppression is something I would rather not see. But might the veil, in all its variations and colors also be expressive? Like a haircut. An ornament? Like jewelry. A symbol? Of beliefs, like a cross. Simply a personal choice? Like vegetarianism.

How does the scarf express property and ownership of women any more than what we see as the loving practice of exchanging a diamond ring? I see more and more women covering their head in America, in Seattle; women, presumably, with education, democracy, a vote, and a choice. Isn’t it rude it to assume they are oppressed?

Turns out that my friend and I visited the same hammam, not a co-ed tourist destination, as many of them have turned into, but a working, local, centuries old community bath.

What I remember now are not naked antics but a sense of familiarity, of neighborhood life, and of peace.  It was November, and cold. Outside it was just dark. The street lights reflected off of fallen leaves.  At the corner shop a woman bought vegetables for the night.  A small boy sat in a large barber chair watching TV. A clutch of bearded men leaned into a game of backgammon and laughed and drank small glasses of tea.

Then we saw it, the hammam, below a dimly light staircase and a sign.  I opened the door. An older woman, her hair wet, sat on a stool watching TV.

I remember standing in the small changing room in the near-dark, facing the wall, and taking off my clothes. The woman knocked, I wrapped myself tightly in my towel, and she led me to the bath.

The ceiling was domed.  Water trickled like an underground cave. Two other women sat in the corner. I wanted to talk to them. They were about my age. But their voices were distant and echo-ey even though they were sitting only a few feet away.

After an hour or so I went back out to the dressing hall.  The two other women came out and paid. They dried, changed, put their headscarves on, and went back into the night.

My hair was wet. I didn’t want to catch cold. So I did the same.

Post Script: My fear is still alive and well. I know because this post took me ages, really weeks to write. I was so afraid of a few simple ideas and what you might think, that my first draft chronicled the rise and fall of Constantinople and The Ottoman Empire (2000+ words alone), my second a walking map of Istanbul, and my third a list of all the edibles in the city, rather than get to the humble scary little point. Of course I didn’t see that for what it was; instead I panicked and assumed I could no longer write. I am a little bit scared that I will post this and everyone will scream at me, but more importantly, I think I now realize something about writer’s block: just like getting quiet, it happens when you are scared and trying to avoid your real thoughts.

But things happen for a reason. I happened to get in touch with my college writing teacher as I was struggling—as if contact with her might help me—which it did. She said, of her own work, that it takes its own time. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Besides, if I posted this last month, when I started it, I could have avoided talking about Seafair, which was clearly on my mind, and more than half of the point.

A note on images: I hope it is ok with Marjane Satarapi that I included some a few snaps from Persepolis. I think everyone should read it. It’s an awesome book.

Take me to Tokyo

Sakura Blossom Ueno Park

The cherry blossoms are just coming out and everywhere I turn I start thinking about Tokyo.

The first time Zilla took me to Sri Lanka, which was-wow- already seven years ago, our flight connected through Narita, which is to Tokyo what Seatac is to Seattle. We were in Sri Lanka almost three weeks and in Tokyo for only three days, but it is Japan that I really remember.

Part of it, I’m sure, was the unexpected good luck of it all. Sri Lanka, in those days, was still at war and while we were there the airport was bombed. Zilla and I were newly together, and being home with him, meeting his parents, being white, wondering if what we had would work and if we were even physically safe was, well, a lot. But when we landed in Japan all of that was over. We were just two people again, with two days together.

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We took the train in to Tokyo and walked up the stairs to Ueno Park. Petals blew in the wind and fell on my face. Without even realizing it, without even considering it might happen, even thinking it was remotely possible, we’d come to Tokyo —and had two whole days—right in the middle of the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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The park was pink, petals lined the paths. People were out of their offices, celebrating. Men in suits and women in skirts–knees neatly folded—sat on blue tarps and drank sake. Their shoes lined the blue plastic. Petals fell in their black hair. Petals fell on their umbrellas.  The air smelled like fresh linen. Everyone was talking and taking photos. Food carts were parked everywhere.

Japanese Fans

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Tokyo Strawberry Lollipops

Japanese Woman

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Zilla spent the first grade in Kyoto—because his parents were on sabbatical there— and he still remembers how to pronounce some Japanese. Please and thank you, bathrooms, money, takoyaki, which the food carts sold, but mostly just the basics now, since it has been thirty years. But his pronunciation is perfect and he has the right body language, a sense of when to nod and bow. So I followed his lead, and we just carried on with a few words and lots of sake, covered in petals and eating fresh tofu soup, making new friends, as it grew dark.Photographing Cherry Blossoms

That night we stayed in a traditional Japanese ryokan—or guest house–on  folded mats. I bathed nude in the traditional baths with three old ladies—more on that, I promise—and we had a thirty course meal, one of which was a single perfect strawberry, that reminds me that perfect falls short as a word. A geisha—or at least that is what she looked like to me– in full kimono brought each dish, kneeled at our low table, backed away as if I were a queen, and then bowed. I hadn’t seen anything like it, except on Reading Rainbow! We still have the menu framed on our wall.

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Fortunes Tokyo Ueno Park

Ueno Park Tokyo Sakura Cherry Blossoms

I think about that trip sometimes, when life gets busy and time seems to stop. Graham Greene says in Travels with my Aunt that travel makes stretches time, makes it longer. Two days, and they held enough wonder for years. Just two days.

Where would you go?

Update 1: I finished my first Computer Science problem set. BAAM! As Emeril would say. The second one was harder: baam? (not a roar, but a meow)

Update 2: Several says ago I woke up to this email: “Your friend has send you an article from WebMD.” I opened it. “How to Get Pregnant Quick: Fertility, Ovulation and Conception.” The friend who sent it? Zilla’s mom! AHHHHHHH! At least I know she’s reading my blog.

Thirty and Coding

Code.org, learning to code

Damn, if some days I don’t feel like I’m still three years old—and of all days, today, the day I turn thirty.

Everyone always asks what you are going to do for your birthday—especially when it is a big one. Honestly, I’ve been so tired lately, I didn’t want to do anything at all.  Last week, during a meeting, my dear editor and friend suggested that I take a pregnancy test and a nap.

The advice was positive but the results were not.

There are things I expected to have by now, and I think a baby is one of them. Not that that means I am ready. Most of the time I feel like a child myself.

So I woke up this morning and talked to my family, and to the friends who know I messed up my real birthday—and have kept forgetting to correct it—on facebook. I thought about going out and buying some youthful make-up for the new purplish color under my eyes, but decided against it. Instead I carried my coffee cup to my office and sat down at my desk. I would celebrate my birthday by just enjoying a regular day of my real life.

One of the things I wanted to do today was to write to you all, here on the blog. So I went into wordpress and began pressing around. I’ve been feeling a little smug lately because I used to struggle so much when I tried to do anything but type on the computer. I’d sit down and then click around and get totally lost, exhaust all my curse words and then nearly black out with rage.  Everything computer just made me feel embarrassed, and old. In college I’d talked about taking computer science. I really should have but I was scared. My boyfriend at the time warned me against it. He said he thought it would be too hard.  I don’t know what’s worse: that that I believed him, or that he said it.

So I updated my blog page—which is hardly computer science, I know, because Zilla is a computer scientist– and then went over to check my email.  My friend Alice—also a computer scientist– had sent a link to code.org. I followed it. It’s all about the importance of teaching coding and computer science in schools and how useful it was in all careers and walks of life. And I thought: ah ha! That’s what I will do to celebrate being thirty. I will get over this hump. I will finally learn to code! Nothing fancy, just the basics. Then at least when (if?) I do get pregnant I won’t have to face a fetus with more computer literacy than I!

Well, I went back to my website with a new confidence and then totally, completely, mucked it up. I was going to map one domain to the other and then add a site redirect. I thought I had done everything right, but apparently not.  When I was done, I couldn’t even access my site at all. I could not figure out what I messed up. I clicked the same buttons three hundred times. Then I clicked them again. And then one or two or three hundred more times.

This was not how I planned to spend my birthday. I tried to breathe. I then wrote urgent supplications for help to wordpress. Then I picked up my phone and then put it down–determined not to call Zilla. I allowed myself two minutes to jump up and down and then curse and then sit on the floor and cry. Really cry. My little dog Zoe was so distressed she pulled one of my files out of the file cabinet and brought it to me to try and help. I took a deep breath, put the file in the file cabinet and checked my email. And there it was: The yearly two word birthday note from the boyfriend who said I probably shouldn’t try to code.

It is possible he didn’t even say that—that it’s just my fears I’m remembering.  It was a long time ago. He was and still is a pretty good guy.  But gosh, sometimes you just have to let the past go. Years pass, and things change, and we end up with an idea of ourselves that’s way out of date.

I typed in my domain name hoping for some cyper-magic. No: my blog was lost and everything was still all messed up. So I decided to do something else for a while. I went back to code.org and followed the links for learners. I did the first exercise: using code to draw a rectangle, a circle, a square. I did it—just like I used to with crayons.

code.org text box

Update: I fixed my webpage after all. Though then I sent that funky blank post–sorry. For obvious reasons this post is appearing a few days after my birthday. AND: This morning I watched the first lecture of Intro to Computer Science which is free and available to all on MIT’s Open courseware.  I kinda got it. Plus, I liked the advice the professor gave to the class:“…do not feel inadequate when you are simply inexperienced.”

A Life Beyond our Control

Thatata in 1966 on top of Bible Rock 1

I’ve been working on my book now for just over two years, and I realize now and then that most of my people have no idea what I’ve been up to. I write and write and write and don’t say a word.

The funny thing is I’d love to talk about my book, if only I knew where to start. Marketing people say I should start with an elevator pitch—the idea of it makes me cringe—to hook you with my story in the mere fifteen seconds that we are presumably trapped together in a moving metal box. But I don’t want to hook anybody and my story takes more than fifteen seconds to tell. That is why I have been sitting at my desk for two years.

I began writing the week after Zilla’s dad passed away. His parents live in Sri Lanka—we live in Seattle—and at the time his father got seriously ill—two years before that– Sri Lanka was in the last throes of civil war.  All-in-all we made seven around the world trips to Sri Lanka, most of them without a return ticket or a suitcase after emergency midnight calls. Instead of discussing what to eat for dinner we were arguing about what constitutes care and how much money we were willing—or able—to pay.

Sometimes I feel like I’m writing a travelogue about all the places a tourist never goes, or a story about how families change, or what it is like to lose a parent. But I’ve realized recently, as revisions have come together, that what I am really writing is a love story, a story about marriage. Loving one another is as rewarding as it is hard.  We all have to learn this lesson. The truth is you cannot always make a person change.

Why add another book to the world’s great library? I don’t know. I don’t mean that in the spirit of defeat, but of possibility. I don’t know what effect my book will have, and that, to me is the whole point of creating: to take our experiences and give them a life beyond our control.

Zilla is going to read the manuscript soon, which will be interesting. Both he and his mother have been so generous to let me write about them and what I now consider our family, at such a difficult time.  Especially generous because the honest me is often frustrated, more than a little impatient, and sometimes mean. We’ll see if they still love me after they read it. That was a joke. Maybe the whole point of my story is that I now know they will.